It has all the latest teams and drivers – but is it actually any good?
Racing games are hugely popular – both with action-hungry gamers and video game producers looking to show off what the latest technology can accomplished.
It’s strange, then, that the only officially licensed F1 game is shackled to a five year-old platform that’s starting to look seriously dated. F1 06 may boast all the new cars – Super Aguri, Scuderia Toro Rosso and MidlandF1 – but they look blocky and horrible. A PlayStation 3 version will be out with the new console later this year, though.
Plus, as the game has come out four months before the end of the season the line-up is riddled with inaccuracies. Yuji Ide, who we haven’t seen since April, is still there, and there’s no sign of Pedro de la Rosa, Robert Kubica, Franck Montagny or Sakon Yamomoto.
I imagine the authors wnated to be first to market with the new season’s data – but why the rush when you’re the only license holder and there’s no competition?
Elsewhere the content is just plain wrong. At Imola the reprofiled Variante Bassa has been ignored. Not that it makes a huge amount of difference because the geography of the circuits isn;t very accurate – perhaps deliberately so to make them easier to drive. I’ve still not seen a racing game that can rival Grand Prix 4 for accurate circuit modelling – and that’s four years old now.
Not that these various shortcomings are going to put off its core audience which will be kids looking for a straightforward racing game with all the official names where the racing is far closer than in the real thing. On that count, mission accomplished.
And it’s not as if it lacks depth either. The career mode is good fun – you attempt different trials to earn a place at one of the lower teams (i.e. the three new ones) and from there your race results could see you promoted to the big time or brutally cast aside like, well, Yuji Ide.
The incentive of moving up to a better team is purely pride – there’s nothing to stop you storming the championship in a Super Aguri.
On the standard racing mode the cars are ridiculously easy to drive. Even if you begin to spare your dignity by turning off automatic brakes and gears you’re still left with a very basic game where you can do little wrong.
Turn off all the driver aids (only worth doing if you have a steering wheel and pedals set up) and everything gets trickier to control, but no more immersive. You still have a strange feeling of being disconnected from the experience, as if you were playing it while drunk. Actually, that’s not a bad way of enjoying it.
There are a couple of clangers to report. The pit stops are incredibly irritating – you have to dumbly thump buttons to make your mechanics perform their various tasks, which offers nothing other than an extremely irritating way of losing a race.
The little tips that pop up between races contain a few howlers as well – but I’ll let the hardcore fans spot them for themselves.
If all you’re after is a simple F1-themed racer, you’ve got one here. It’s not as accomplished as it might be, but it does the job. What it does not do is offer anything for the many people who would like to see a more detailed, immersive F1 simulation that is available cross-platform.